But from the first time we mixed the malt and hop extract into the hot water, I jumped into action, giddy as a child helping Grandma bake cookies. Later as we stirred in the powdered yeast and sugar, a treacly aroma swept through the kitchen and I was hooked.
So when three of my friends and I decided to take a girls weekend getaway to Springfield, I knew a couple of craft breweries would be on our must-taste list. Our first stop was a tour at Mother’s Brewing Company, where they are “committed to artistic craftsmanship and brewing craft beers that make life's everyday moments anything but.” I couldn’t have described my thoughts about beer brewing any better.
Located downtown in the old Butternut Bread factory, Mother’s Brewing Company bought and renovated the building in 2010, bringing it full circle—the very first business there was originally a bottling company. I may have geeked out a little bit on the tour with fun facts like that, but nothing beat the behind-the-scenes peek into where the magic happens.
From the massive gleaming tanks in the water room and the vast grain storage room, to the brew house and beyond, I was fascinated to see how an operation like this works. It’s sort of like what Matt and I do in our kitchen, only on a much grander scale. An all-around sensory experience, my friends and I got a glimpse into the brewing process and how the equipment works. The friendly staff let us see and smell the differences among the various hops and grains that were on hand, explaining how different ingredients can impact the beer.
The staff even joined us for a pint in the tasting room. Although, because of their hospitality, it felt less like a tasting room and more like hanging out in our best friend’s kitchen. I tried the Towhead, a refreshing and light-bodied American Blonde that starts out sweet and fruity, then finishes with a just a hint of hops. Cold, smooth and tasty. Just what I was looking for.
Next we headed to Springfield Brewing Company, where we joined in with locals and tourists alike all enjoying a colorful array of beer and having a really great time doing so. Visually, I was impressed with the variety of colors from the light tones of Paul’s Pale Ale to the richness of the Aviator Doppelbock, but pretty beer is one thing—I wanted to know how it would taste, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was excited to try the Heart of Darkness Dunkel, a beer that created a buzz at the Great American Beer Festival, winning a silver medal in 2013. A hint of smokiness blended with the aromas of dark bread, roasted nuts and warm earthiness, to give the rich, malty lager a complex and delicious flavor.
The food choices were amazing, too. My friends and I split the spinach artichoke dip and a Mediterranean platter that was filled with incredible falafels, dolma tabbouleh salad, hummus and warm naan bread before diving into our entrees. Our server told us that Springfield Brewing Company offers 32 oz. Crowlers (canned growlers), where they fill and seal to-go cans at the downstairs bar. I had to take advantage and snag a sample of the Dunkel to bring home to Matt.
At the end of a full day of touring and tasting, my friends and I were excited to get to our rooms at the Mansion at Elfindale. With Victorian-style charm and turn-of-the-century decor, this luxurious bed and breakfast was the perfect place to relax, talk late into the evening and make our plans for the next day. The Tower Suite was decorated in soothing green and ivory, and even had a spiral staircase to the observatory on the fourth floor, giving us a stunning view of surrounding Springfield.
After a delicious breakfast the next morning, we headed out to spend the day at a nearby winery. And what goes great with wine? Chocolate! Based on the bed and breakfast owner’s rave reviews, we were dying to stop by Askinosie Chocolate to pick up a few treats to take with us. The only chocolate maker practicing direct trade on four continents, Askinosie is committed to leaving whatever part of the world they touch better for the encounter. Their chocolates certainly made our day better.
We were tempted to buy one of everything, but after careful deliberation we narrowed it down to three—the Ecuador Dark Chocolate Nibble Bar, the Dark Chocolate + Coconut Sugar & Toasted Coconut CollaBARation Bar and the Dark Chocolate + Peanut Butter Bar. My mouth watered just looking at them.
We took our chocolate treasures with us to OOVVDA Winery and spent the morning sampling fresh, distinctive and local wines handcrafted right in Springfield. The lush green outdoor space was the perfect spot to spread out a blanket and bask in the warm sunlight. We had fun with the owners as they helped us decide what wines to pair with our chocolates. I learned the stronger flavors of chocolate go better with wine that packs an intense and fruity punch. My favorite combination was the Ecuador Dark Chocolate Nibble Bar with OOVVDA’s punchy raspberry wine. I loved it so much I bought a bottle to take home with me.
My friend, Sarah, told us about a second place, 7C’s Winery. She’d heard that they had grills available to use for picnics, which was perfect because we were all starving. We picked up some chicken breasts and salad fixings from a nearby grocery store and drove to the winery with the windows down, enjoying the green hills and warm breeze.
The owners of 7C’s were kind enough to give us a tour of the vineyards before showing us several wine selections that would pair perfectly with our grilled chicken. I had the Wagon Train, a dry white wine made with Vignoles, one of Missouri’s most versatile white grapes that gives the wine that Riesling-like luscious, fruity flavor I was looking for.
After a day filled with great wine, delectable chocolate and lots of laughter, we packed up our blankets and headed home. I couldn’t wait to share with Matt all I had learned about brewing craft beer and was eager to see what he thought of the Dunkel. As for the chocolate…well, I was going to keep that all to myself.
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